How Can Tight Muscles

How Can Tight Muscles Result In Back Pain?

If you’ve suddenly developed back pain (AKA acute back pain), a muscle sprain or strain is likely to blame. By contrast, pain that develops over time is more often the result of degenerative or inflammatory conditions, including arthritis. So, if you’re struggling with back pain seemingly out of the blue, don’t panic unless it is accompanied by fever, weakness, or swelling. Read on to learn about how even innocuous activities can lead to tight muscles and back pain.

What Causes Tight Muscles?

Tight or stiff muscles are incredibly common. Though they may result from underlying inflammatory conditions, in many cases, tight muscles develop after a period of inactivity, followed by activity. Anyone who has ever returned to the gym after time away knows that the aches and pains the following day are perfectly normal. Likewise, adding a new type of exercise to your regimen can create stiff, tight muscles.

Stiff muscles after a return to activities will typically resolve on their own in a couple of days.  However, suppose you’re experiencing tight muscles after a known injury, such as twisting your ankle or falling. In that case, you should seek medical treatment to ensure you haven’t experienced a serious strain or sprain of muscles or ligaments.  

But tight muscles don’t always result from strenuous activity. Sleeping in an awkward position, sitting too long at your desk, engaging in repetitive movement, failing to drink enough water, an imbalance of vitamins and nutrients, and some medications can cause stiff muscles.

Tight Muscles Throughout the Body Can Cause Back Pain

Tight muscles are the leading culprit behind the sudden onset of back pain. However, the specific muscles responsible for your back pain may be elsewhere in your body.


It may seem strange, but tight hamstring muscles in the thighs can cause back pain. When muscles are tight or stiff, they contract, making them shorter. In the case of hamstrings, this can affect the alignment of your spine and pelvis leading to lumbar (lower back) pain.

Hip Flexors

When the muscles in your hip that make it possible to lift your thigh become tight, it can lead to pressure on the spine. Simple, at-home stretches recommended by your physician can often help alleviate this pain.

Rotator Cuff

If you experience tight muscles in the rotator cuff, which attach your shoulder blade to your arm,  the pain may spread to the upper back. 


Strains to the trapezius (neck muscle) are so common that they’ve been dubbed “tech neck” and “text neck.” These strains stem from repetitive strain on the neck muscles caused by leaning the neck forward to look at your phone, tablet, or computer screen. Tightness in the trapezius may spread to the upper back causing pain. 


The muscles on either side of your waist are the obliques. Frequent bending, twisting, or turning can cause tightness in the obliques that can cause back pain. 

How Long Should I Wait to See a Doctor for Back Pain?

Back pain is extraordinarily common. The overwhelming majority of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Tight muscles often relax with time, proper hydration, and with slow, measured stretching exercises. 

However, if you’re still experiencing stiffness and tightness in your back after a week or more, schedule an appointment with your physician. They may need to refer you to the appropriate specialist for treatment and pain relief.

Chronic Back Pain: Get Help from the Pain Specialists in Portsmouth, NH

The  American Pain Institute in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is a technologically advanced pain management practice serving patients from Exeter, Greenland, Hampton and surrounding communities.  We specialize in innovative, non-surgical treatments for chronic pain.  To schedule your appointment, call 603-766-8500 or send us a message.